We all know the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, in terms of our overall health and wellbeing, and yet 1 in 4 British adults are now classed as obese. What's more, the UK is pulling ahead of many other European countries in the obesity league, and of course, excess weight is often linked with various health problems – including asthma.
Studies show there is a strong link between being overweight and having asthma. The link isn't clear-cut, but research indicates that asthma is more likely to occur if you're obese. One of the reasons for this is that obesity causes chronic inflammation in the body, including the lungs. Asthma is the result of inflammation in the lungs and this can be made worse by eating an unhealthy diet high in processed foods.
Obese people don't appear to be any more at risk of having severe asthma than slim people. Yet data shows that while obese and slim people have similar lung function, asthma treatments don't work as efficiently for obese people, and lung volume can be reduced.
Deborah Wadden, an asthma clinical nurse from Asthma UK, believes there is a strong link between being overweight and the severity of asthma symptoms. "Obese people find their asthma much harder to control," she says, and recommends eating a healthy diet and exercising on a regular basis to avoid complications that may arise from carrying extra weight on your body.
It seems obvious, but for many people, it's not apparent that they are overweight until they start experiencing problems or have their BMI measured. Here are a few signs to look out for, however:
You struggle to breathe while walking up the stairs. This is one of the biggest indicators, and what's more, if you find it hard to breathe when walking you will certainly find it uncomfortable to exercise more strenuously, which means the problems will only get worse. If you have asthma, it makes sense that this will exacerbate your symptoms.
You feel tired all the time. Carrying excess weight means your body has to work harder in all sorts of ways, and that's why you feel run down. If routine tasks such as shopping or housework leave you exhausted, you may need to consider losing weight.
Your waist measures more than 35 inches. Excessive belly fat increases your risk of having high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, blood pressure and heart disease. If you can reduce your waist size you will be able to exercise more efficiently and also alleviate the pressure on your organs – including the lungs, so your breathing will become less laboured.
If you snore loudly during the night then you might be suffering from sleep apnea, which is when irregular breathing disrupts your sleep. Fat stored around the neck can cause the airways to narrow and create shallow breathing or pauses in the breathing – not good if you have asthma.
All of the above are common signs that you are overweight and should consider the impact this may have on your general health. Imagine how healthy you will feel, and how much more easily you'll be able to breathe, after losing some of the weight!
Often when overweight or obese people lose weight, their asthma symptoms are reduced and they require less medication as a result. Getting fit and healthy should be a priority for anyone, regardless of size, but particularly if you are overweight and have asthma.